Anambra, EFCC clash over Obiano’s N4bn fraud trial

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Wednesday, told the Federal High Court in Abuja to discountenance an appeal filed by the Anambra State government challenging the ongoing trial of ex-governor Willie Obiano for alleged N4bn theft.

The EFCC insisted that the Anambra State government was not a defendant in the matter and could therefore not challenge the proceedings.

The anti-graft agency had on January 24, arraigned Obiano on nine charges bordering on theft of the state’s security votes to the tune of N4bn.

The EFCC said he perpetrated the alleged theft during his eight-year tenure as Anambra State government.

Obiano pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on bail but restricted to Abuja.

A day after his arraignment, the incumbent Governor of Anambra State, Charles Soludo, visited Obiano in Abuja, expressing solidarity with him.

At the last hearing in the case, Obiano’s lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), informed the court that the Anambra State government filed a motion dated March 3 to challenge the jurisdiction of the EFCC to try the former governor.

“There is an appeal filed by the Anambra State Government challenging the powers of the EFCC to investigate the security vote of the Anambra State Government, “ the motion partly read.

Ikpeazu urged the court to quash the charges against his client for lack of jurisdiction.

However, the EFCC, in opposition, filed a counter-affidavit, contending that the appeal filed by the Anambra State government could not abort Obiano’s trial.

The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Sylvanus Tahir, insisted that charges and proof of evidence established a prima facie case against Obaino.

In counter-affidavit disposed to by one Habu Fari, the EFCC said, ”Contrary to the depositions contained in paragraphs 5 (v) and (vi) of the defendant’s affidavit, the charge and the proofs of evidence disclose a prima facie case and link the defendant with the allegations constituted in the charge.

“The deposition contained in paragraph 5 (xi) of the affidavit in support of the motion, Anambra State Government is not a defendant in the instant proceedings and the defendant is not Anambra State. The appeal alluded to has no bearing or relationship with the instant charge.

“Contrary to the deposition in Paragraphs 5(xii), (xii), (xiv), (xv), (v) (xvii) and (xviii), the instant charge is brought bona fide, initiated through due legal process, devoid of witch-hunt, precise, unassailable and borne out of the process of a serious investigation as a call to duty to fight economic and financial crimes.

“The counts constituted in the charge all border on money laundering, which this honorable court has the exclusive jurisdiction to try.”

After both Obiano’s lawyer and EFCC prosecutor adopted their processes, Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned till April 18, 2024, for the ruling.